August 31, 2013 by John Chilson
Down in Milwaukie, Ore., snuggled near the Ledding Library sits the former home of Philip Streib. As you come around the bend, the Mediterranean-style home across the street from the WPA-era Portland Waldorf school is one of Milwaukie’s cooler residences. (Downtown Milwaukie, despite previous generation’s attempts to mow down older buildings, still has a nice, older stock of homes.)
Streib had an interesting life. He immigrated to the area from Germany in the 1880s, founded the First State Bank in downtown Milwaukie and lived on land purchased from the Llewellyn family. There, he grew grapes and apples and lived out his life.
As a beer/history geek what’s most interesting is that the successful banker was also brewmaster at Gambrinus Brewery in Portland for a decade and even worked for a bit at the Henry Weinhard Brewery.
Gambrinus Brewery churned out beer for thirsty Portlanders in the late 1880s and early teens in Portland until Prohibition. Walla Walla-based Northwest Brewing Company, Inc., attempted to re-open Gambrinus in the 30s after Prohibition but those plans fizzled out. The current Gambrinus Company isn’t related as far as we know.
So, like many of the pre-Prohibition beers, Gambrinus’ recipes, we’re assuming, are either gone or sitting in a dusty vault somewhere. Years ago, Imbibe magazine did a piece on pre-Prohibition lagers making the scene (Full Sail’s Session gets a nod) and then there’s Fort George’s 1811 lager. But, have any local brewers tried to replicate any of our local pre-Prohibition beer recipes? Brewing a Gambrinus beer would be an excellent way to connect to the past beer scene to the present one. In Washington, DC, there’s an excellent example of this (thanks to the hat-tip, Ken Hawkins!).
So, whaddya say, local brewers? Pipe dream? Too expensive? Ingredients unavailable? Too played out (“Dream of the 1890s”)? Or, is this a opportunity to time travel to Portland, circa 1880 and drink some of the past?